“You say, ‘I’d like to help you. Let’s get all of the sharp objects, firearms, ammunition, toxic substances out of the way and let’s have Uncle Joe hold them,’” Dr. Moutier said. “If they live on a high floor, say, ‘I’m going to stay with you or come stay with me.’ If they resist, tell them you’re doing it for your own peace of mind.”
Bill Brazell, 54, had the wherewithal to seek help when he was a young adult and contemplating jumping from a tall building. His father had drowned in a boating accident when Mr. Brazell was 16; afterward, he and his family were in chaos.
“I wish we had talked more about the pain we shared, but for many years we did not,” said Mr. Brazell, now a father of three in Millburn, N.J., and a partner at a consulting firm.
Scared of how depressed he was, he sought therapy and shared his feelings with a few trusted friends. “One in particular, his friendship meant a great deal and helped keep me going,” he said.
Call emergency services if the situation is dire
If an adult is behaving irrationally, appears to be delusional, agitated and incoherent, or is blatantly talking about suicide, call 911 immediately, said Amanda McGough, a clinical psychologist in Charlotte, N.C., who specializes in suicide prevention. She suggested making clear to first responders that this is a mental health emergency, because many law enforcement officers are specially trained to handle them.
But while 911 can interrupt a mental health crisis, involving the police can be traumatic for the patient in the long run, Dr. Andrews said. One study found that hospitalization is associated with an increased risk of suicide.